A government adviser has warned of a possible surge in COVID-19 cases in the next two months due to big events including the May 9 elections and religious events such as Ramadan and the Holy Week.
“We have the campaign period in politics, elections, and we have religious events like Ramadan and mass gatherings.
All of these are what we call ‘high-risk events’ for superspreaders,” National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 medical adviser Dr. Ted Herbosa said at the Laging Handa briefing.
Herbosa said that during Ramadan, Muslims eat together at night, while Catholics go to the provinces during Holy Week to see their relatives.
Political rallies, meanwhile, are mass gathering events in which attendees sometimes forget to wear their face masks properly.
“This is a good reminder for us that COVID-19 cases could rise in next two months,” Herbosa said.
The Department of Health on Saturday reported a total of 302 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the nationwide tally to 3,681,101.
The number also brought the country’s active cases to 29,440, the lowest since January 2, when it had 21,418 active infections.
Among the top regions with cases in the last two weeks were the National Capital Region with 1,395, followed by Region 4-A with 503 and Region 3 with 368.
The number of recoveries rose to 3,591,931, while the country’s death toll climbed to 59,730.
The DOH said the country’s bed occupancy rate remained at 16.1%, with 5,273 beds occupied and 27,430 beds unoccupied.
The department also said 19,712 individuals were tested, with 312 testing laboratories submitting data.
Despite the plateauing of COVID-19 cases, Herbosa explained that a surge was still possible.
“A COVID-19 surge could still happen, that was our cycle in the past where cases are increasing every three months. So, it was like January or February, we’re due for another surge or outbreak,” Herbosa said.
“I think it is difficult to relax. I am cautiously optimistic. We hope a surge would not return due to our high vaccination rate in Metro Manila. But of course, it’s still possible in other parts of the country,” he said.
Herbosa said the government had so far not yet identified a case of Omicron XE, a possible new coronavirus variant linked to but is 10 times more transmissible than Omicron.
Also interviewed at the Laging Handa briefing, OCTA Research fellow Dr. Guido David reiterated that COVID-19 cases might rise after the May 9 elections.
“There is a possibility. There were upticks seen in other parts of the country, but these upticks are still minimal, not yet alarming. We saw an uptick in Central Luzon and Northern Mindanao. But the areas are still at very low risk … we do not want to raise a false alarm,” he said.
David said information on the Omicon XE was still limited as Philippine experts continue to conduct their study on the subvariant.